Tag Archives: Solomon

Commentary on Ecclesiastes 2-3 (Wisdom from the Preacher)

The English title, Ecclesiastes, comes from the Septuagint. The Greek word means “preacher” and translates the Hebrew title, which apparently referred to the office of a preacher or teacher. It is derived from the Hebrew word Qohelet, meaning “to assemble.”

The Book of Ecclesiastes is an advanced wisdom text intended for adults. The Hebrews did not include it in the wisdom works used to educate their children because of its contents.

The traditional view of authorship is that King Solomon wrote the book late in his life, around 940 BC. However, many scholars, perhaps the majority, believe that Ecclesiastes was not written by Solomon, but by an anonymous author as late as 200 BC.

Biblical scholar Tom Howe summarizes the theme of Ecclesiastes:

Although the tone of the book as a whole seems to be pessimistic, Qohelet is not a pessimist. Rather, his goal is to demonstrate that life is meaningless, unless one lives it in the fear of God, keeping His commandments and enjoying life as a gift from Him. Ultimately, Qohelet is urging the reader not to trust in anything in this life to provide meaning and value. Rather, one should trust only and always in God, and live life before Him.

In chapter 2, verses 1-11, Solomon writes about his experiments with pleasure. His goal was to see if the meaning of life consisted in earthly pleasures. Solomon attempted to laugh as much as possible, but he didn’t find meaning in laughter. He drank wine and became intoxicated, but didn’t find meaning in that either.

He built houses, gardens, vineyards, parks, water reservoirs. He bought numerous slaves and livestock. He amassed gold and silver. He brought hundreds of beautiful women into his household so that he could have sex with them. He reports that he denied himself no pleasure that he desired.

After denying himself no pleasure, did he finally find the meaning of life? He answers, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Solomon, it should be noted, is not saying that laughter, wine, building projects, wealth, etc., are all bad. There is a time and place for all these things. The point is that none of them can provide a person a meaningful life by themselves. Something is missing.

In verses 18-26, Solomon then considers his labors from another perspective. What would become of all the wealth that he had amassed, all of the building projects, all of the work that he had accomplished during his life?

The truth is that everything Solomon built will be left to his children, to those who live after he dies. His children, who did not work for what he gives them, may be fools who squander all of the work which Solomon completed. Three times in these verses Solomon laments that “this too is meaningless.” If all of a man’s labor merely gets passed on to those who had nothing to do with it, then what is the point of all this labor? What is the point in working hard in this life?

In verses 24-26, we get to a central theme of Ecclesiastes. Solomon’s answer to the question of the meaning of life is the following:

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”

Is Solomon teaching that we should all just eat, drink, and be merry? Is that all there is to life? Not at all. Duane A. Garrett, in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (New American Commentary)writes:

We should not understand ‘nothing is better than’ in a rigidly literal sense, as if the Teacher were saying that enjoyment of food and possessions is the goal of life. In context he is talking about how one should view life with respect to labor and the fruit of labor. He is not, therefore, negating the worth of higher values. But he insists that people should learn how to enjoy the return they get on their labor. Indeed, the ability to enjoy and use the good things of life (i.e., material things) is itself a gift of God. Those who belong to God should above all others have a capacity to enjoy life.

In chapter 3, verses 1-11, Solomon teaches his readers that there is a time for everything. The verses move back and forth between desirable and undesirable aspects of life. They are meant to represent the totality of human existence.

Duane Garrett expresses the meaning of these verses:

Life is composed of joy and sorrow, building and destroying, and living and dying. Each comes at the proper time. This reminds us that we are creatures of time and not yet able to partake of the joys of eternity. No one can be happy who has not come to grips with the reality that life is full of changes and sorrows as well as continuity and joy. We must accept that we are mortal and governed by time.

Donald R. Glenn, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Old Testament:), adds:

(1) Solomon observed that God … has made everything beautiful (or, ‘appropriate’; the same word is trans. ‘proper’ in 5:18) in its time, that is, God in His providential plans and control has an appropriate time for every activity. (2) Solomon observed that God has put eternity in the hearts of men. People have a longing or desire to know the extratemporal significance of themselves and their deeds or activities. (3) Solomon added that people cannot know the works of God … from beginning to end, that is, they cannot know the sovereign, eternal plan of God. Human labor is without profit because people are ignorant of God’s eternal plan, the basis by which He evaluates the appropriateness and eternal significance of all their activities. Because of this ignorance there is an uncertainty and latent temporality to the value of all one’s labor.

So how is mankind supposed to cope with the tension of a temporal life and a desire for immortality?

Verses 12-13 repeat the theme of the book: “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.”

Commentary on Proverbs 3 (Wisdom from Solomon)

Proverbs 3 begins by reminding the reader that the words of wisdom contained in these proverbs will prolong life and yield prosperity. In addition, the reader is commanded to live a life characterized by love and faithfulness.

Verses 5-8 are well-known verses that appear on the walls of many Christian homes. Duane A. Garrett, in The New American Commentary Volume 14 – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, explains what these famous verses mean.

The command to trust God ‘with all your heart’ means that the total personality is to be committed to God’s care, although it emphasizes the mind and volition. The prohibitions against depending on one’s own understanding and against intellectual pride (vv. 5b, 7a) implicitly reject a ‘secular’ search for wisdom and look back to the thesis of the book (1:7).

Although this passage certainly condemns any academic arrogance, it does not indulge in anti-intellectualism. The commitment of the heart to God means that all the beliefs and decisions of life are to be submitted to Yahweh. Even very practical decisions are in view here, and not just matters of academic pursuit. But the text is no more opposed to academic research per se than to any normal activity of life. Also, ‘understanding’ implies not just intellectual capacity but one’s own moral standards. One’s private vision of right and wrong must be submitted to God.

Solomon then instructs his son to honor God with his material wealth. If he does, God will reward him with overflowing barns and vats full of wine. But, Sid S. Buzzell reminds us in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Old Testament:), “In general it is true that godliness results in gain, that piety brings prosperity (cf. v. 2; Deut. 28:1–14; Matt. 6:33). But this kind of generalization, common in Proverbs, does not disallow God from making exceptions. Otherwise God is invested in, rather than honored.”

Verses 11-12 balance out verses 9-10 by reminding the young man that God disciplines as well. The young man should not resent discipline, because that is what a loving father does.

Verses 13-20 are a hymn to wisdom. There are several points made about wisdom. First, wisdom is more valuable than wealth. The church father, Thomas Aquinas, famously ranked the top 8 goods for human beings and wealth came in last place. Solomon, in fact, personifies wisdom as a woman who holds wealth in her left hand. The left hand was considered to be the inferior, or weaker hand, in the ancient world.

Second, wisdom gives long life. Third, wisdom gives peace. Fourth, wisdom holds the keys to immortality, for that is what the “tree of life” refers to in the Book of Genesis. The readers of this proverb would surely make the connection that wisdom leads to the defeat of death itself.

Fifth, and finally, God Himself employed wisdom and knowledge to create the earth and the heavens above. If God embraces wisdom, then surely we, His creatures, should as well.

Verses 21-26 are another appeal from Solomon to his son to embrace wisdom. Why? Because the wise person will live a life characterized by security and safety compared to the fool who rejects wisdom. Duane Garrett reminds us that “verse 23 is a general promise; it is not an absolute guarantee that the wise will never have occasion to stumble. Compared to the unwise, however, they will experience tranquility.”

Verses 27-35 contain maxims on how to be a good neighbor. These are very practical pieces of wisdom that Solomon renders in a rapid-fire sequence.

First, don’t withhold good things from other people. Garrett writes, “’Those who deserve good’ may be laborers who have earned their pay, the poor who rightly plead for help, or suppliants at the city gates who call for justice. On the other hand, they could be those who have loaned money and deserve to be repaid.”

Second, “do not plot harm against your neighbor.” He lives near you and trusts you. Third, do not falsely accuse your neighbor. Fourth, do not envy a violent man. God curses the man of violence, but blesses the man of righteousness. Verse 34 is quoted in both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5, as “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Sid Buzzell, commenting on verses 27-35, writes, “These verses show that the words ‘upright,’ ‘righteous,’ ‘the humble,’ and ‘the wise’ are basically synonymous in the Book of Proverbs.”

Commentary on Proverbs 1 (Wisdom from Solomon)

The book of Proverbs is a collection of collections on the subject of wisdom. There are several compilations in the book, including “the proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel” (Pr 1– 24), “more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah” (chs. 25– 29), “the sayings of Agur son of Jakeh” (ch. 30) and “the sayings of King Lemuel— an oracle his mother taught him” (ch. 31).

Solomon’s proverbs were written between 970 and 930 BC, while Hezekiah’s scribes compiled additional, “unpublished” Solomonic proverbs between 729 and 686 BC. Nothing is known of Agur and King Lemuel, so the dates of composition of their contributions are unknown.

The goal of the wisdom in Proverbs is to develop skill in living according to the order that is embedded in God’s creation. Most proverbs state a single general truth with little attempt to note exceptions and qualifications. Such an approach effectively emphasizes the principle taught by avoiding the distraction of qualifications.

Solomon is credited with writing three collected works of wisdom – Song of Songs in his youth, Proverbs during his middle years, and Ecclesiastes during his elder years. The Book of Proverbs contains Solomon’s advice to young people who are not yet old enough to have sufficient life experience to make good decisions. This is the stated purpose of Proverbs 1, which we will study in this lesson.

Verses 2-7 inform the reader immediately why he should read the proverbs that Solomon has written. It is to obtain wisdom, but Solomon describes several kinds of wisdom here. According to Duane Garrett, in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (New American Commentary), these verses outline four characteristics of wisdom.

First, it is practical. ‘Wisdom’ includes the idea of ‘common sense’ and the ability to cope with daily problems and can also refer to occupational skills (Exod 28:3; Ps 107:27). Second, it is intellectual. This is implied in words like ‘understanding’ and ‘knowledge.’ Solomon’s own fascination with natural history illustrates this (1 Kgs 4:33). Third, it is moral and involves self-control. This is indicated in words like ‘right and fair’ and ‘discipline.’ Fourth, Proverbs draws the reader into the mysteries of life. This is implied in terms like ‘parables’ and ‘riddles.’ The ancients were intrigued at riddles (Judg 14:12–19), but more is involved here than casual entertainment. Biblical wisdom seeks to resolve or at least adjust to the ambiguities of life. It seeks the reality behind the appearances. Not only that, it affirms that the believer can understand mysteries that outsiders cannot and so may couch its teaching in enigma (Matt 13:10–17).

Verse 7 gives the foundation of all wisdom, the fear of the Lord. Nobody can claim to be truly wise unless they have grounded their lives in the revelation of God. Only fools reject wisdom and God.

The wisdom taught by Solomon is grounded in God, but applies to worldly living. K. T. Aitken, in Proverbs (OT Daily Study Bible Series), explains,

The truly wise man of the world will be a man of faith. Equally, of course, a foundation is for building on. So the man of faith ought also to be a man of the world. The ‘fool’ who despises wisdom can therefore either be the man of the world who has no time for God, or the man of God who has no time for the world—or as we might say, either people who are so earthly minded as to be of no heavenly use; or people who are so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly use.

Solomon records his first specific exhortation to wisdom in verses 8-19. Verses 8-9 introduce a theme repeated throughout the book of Proverbs, which is that children are blessed when they heed the counsel of their parents. Parents have numerous life experiences to draw upon to make wise decisions, and children do not, thus children are advised to listen to their parents.

Verse 10-14 warn against peer pressure, in particular the pressure to join a gang who robs and kills innocent travelers. In the ancient world, like today, there was a constant enticement for young men to become members of violent gangs who would commit criminal acts to enrich themselves. The Crips and Bloods have been around for 3,000 years!

Solomon implores the young man to steer clear of these gangs. What these gang members don’t realize is that their violence is ultimately going to kill them. They are on a self-destructive path that will lead them to the grave.

Verse 17 has caused translators a lot of problems, as its meaning in the original Hebrew is unclear. We know that in the ancient world, hunters would lay nets on the ground with grain on them. Birds would land on the net to eat the grain, and the hunters would close the net around the birds, capturing them. Given these facts, Duane Garrett offers this interpretation of verse 17:

The line is best rendered, ‘In the eyes of a bird, the net is strewn [with grain] for no reason.’ In other words, the bird does not see any connection between the net and what is scattered on it; he just sees food that is free for the taking. In the process he is trapped and killed. In the same way, the gang cannot see the connection between their acts of robbery and the fate that entraps them.

Verses 20-33 personify wisdom as a woman. She calls out to anyone who will listen to her, but in particular simple ones, mockers, and fools. K. T. Aitken describes these three types of people to whom wisdom calls:

(1) The ‘simple’ is the inexperienced and gullible youth we met in 1:4. (2) The ‘scoffer’ is the person who is arrogant and self-opinionated, and always ready to debunk the views and beliefs of others. In Ps. 1:1 he takes his seat in company with the wicked and sinners. (3) The ‘fool’ (Hebrew kesil) is a downright stupid person. He mistakes his folly for wisdom and seems quite insensible to what is good, right and proper.

If these people reject the teachings of Wisdom, there are consequences. The woman Wisdom describes her reaction if she is rejected. “I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.”

The fools who reject wisdom will inevitably get themselves into trouble and they will call on Wisdom to rescue them, but it will be too late. Wisdom will not answer and will not be found. The fool will suffer the consequences for his stupidity, possibly causing his own death.

Aitken compares Wisdom to the prophets of Israel, saying,

the accusation in these verses strikes the same note as the prophets’ indictment of Israel for spurning God: ‘they refuse to know me’ (Jer. 9:6), ‘they have not given heed to my words’ (Jer. 6:19), ‘they are not willing to listen to me’ (Ezek. 3:7, ‘[they] hate the good’ (Mic. 3:2), ‘[they] chose what I did not delight in’ (Isa. 65:12), ‘they have despised the Holy One of Israel’ (Isa. 1:4).

For Lady Wisdom, the fools’ response spelled rejection. That is often the way of God’s man or woman in the world. His spokespeople are seldom popular figures. The prophets were not, and neither was Jesus. For the fools themselves it spelled a wasted opportunity—and more!

Verse 33 offers the alternative to those who do listen. “But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Commentary on 1 Kings 3 (Solomon Asks for Wisdom)

The books of 1 and 2 Kings were originally a single work, but were separated into two parts when they were translated into the Greek New Testament (the Septuagint). The Septuagint also combined Samuel and Kings into a four-part history of the monarchy of Israel (First, Second, Third, Fourth Book of Kingdoms).

The author of Kings is unknown, but most scholars believe it was finally written and edited around 550 BC during the Babylonian exile by a Judahite. The author claims to use at least three sources for his information, although there are probably additional sources he does not mention. The three sources are 1) the Book of the Annals of Solomon, 2) the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel, and 3) the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah. These books were either part of the official royal archives, or they may have been written by Hebrew prophets during the 400 year span from Solomon’s rule to the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

The primary purpose of the author is to explain why the Jews are in exile by examining the kings who ruled Israel and Judah. Each king is evaluated based on whether they obeyed God’s commands in the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the summary of the Law given to Moses. The kings of the northern kingdom, Israel, disobeyed God so egregiously that they were overrun by the Assyrians a full 136 years before the southern kingdom of Judah was overrun by the Babylonians. Although there were a handful of kings who followed the Law, the vast majority did not, and so both Israel and Judah fell to foreign powers.

Chapter 3 of 1 Kings begins Solomon’s official reign as king of Israel in 970 BC. In verse 1, we learn that Solomon immediately forges an alliance with Egypt, his powerful southern neighbor, by marrying the daughter of Pharaoh. He brings her to Jerusalem and puts her in temporary quarters until his building projects are completed.

There is some debate among biblical interpreters as to whether Solomon is violating the Law with this marriage. Deuteronomy 7 prohibits marriage with Canaanite women, but Deuteronomy 21 allows for marriage of foreign (non-Canaanite women) captured in battle. It appears that Pharaoh’s daughter willingly accepted the worship of Yahweh and she is nowhere criticized by the writer for turning Solomon away from adherence to the Law.

In verses 2-3, the writer alerts us to the fact that the Israelites are worshiping at “high places,” which are shrines set up at various elevations to conduct worship of a deity. The reason given is that there is no central worship center for the Israelites yet. At this time, the Ark of the Covenant has been moved to Jerusalem, but the rest of the tabernacle still resides at a high place called Gibeon, which is about 5 miles north of Jerusalem.

Solomon travels to Gibeon to make sacrifices to God, probably during one of the seven annual festivals. That night, he encounters God in a vivid dream. God asks Solomon what he wants and Solomon answers that he desires a “discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Why? Because he is an inexperienced king (he was about 20 years old at the time) and he is expected to govern an enormous number of people.

Recall that a primary role of a king was to render judicial decisions in especially difficult cases where local judges were not able to settle a dispute. Years before, King David’s son Absalom undermined his authority by accusing David of neglecting his judicial role. Solomon knows he needs God’s help to do this job well.

It is also important to note that God is the source of all wisdom, and thus Solomon will only be truly wise and discerning if he follows the commands of God, given in the Law. Solomon cannot be wise without knowing and obeying the commands of God.

God is pleased with Solomon’s request and grants it. He will make Solomon the wisest man who ever lived. In addition, God will give Solomon those things he did not ask for: riches and honor. Solomon will also have a long life if he obeys the Law as his father David did.

Now that God has officially blessed Solomon’s reign, Solomon returns to Jerusalem and hosts a feast with sacrifices before the Ark of the Covenant. His rule is off to a great start!

To prove to his readers that God truly blessed Solomon with supernatural wisdom, the author of 1 Kings, in verses 16-28, relates the most famous example of Solomon’s discernment at work. Two prostitutes, who live in the same house, each bear a child within 3 days of each other. One prostitute carelessly smothers her child while she sleeps. When she discovers what she’s done, she takes her dead baby and swaps it for the live baby who belongs to the other sleeping prostitute.

The next morning, the woman wakes with a dead baby beside her, but upon closer inspection she realizes it’s not her child at all. She figures out that the other prostitute has stolen her child to replace the one she lost. Of course, both women claim that the other is lying and that the live baby truly belongs to each of them. How can Solomon possibly decide who the mother of the living baby is?

Solomon’s solution is to announce that he will cut the baby in half with a sword so that each woman can have half a baby, the only “fair” solution. At this point, one woman speaks up and pleads for Solomon to give the baby to the other woman instead of killing him. The other woman tells Solomon to go ahead and kill the baby so that neither woman will have him. Solomon rightly discerns that the true mother must be the first woman who offered to give the baby up.

Verse 28 summarizes the reaction of the nation to Solomon’s ruling: “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.”

Commentary on 1 Chronicles 28-29 (Death of David)

1 and 2 Chronicles were originally a single work that was separated into two books when it was translated into the Greek Septuagint. The Chronicles was written to the Jewish people after they returned from Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC.  Jewish tradition holds that Ezra was the author of Chronicles, but scholars are divided on the issue.

The book starts with genealogies stretching from Adam to the twelve sons of Jacob, to David, all the way to the exiles of Judah. It then records the accomplishments of King David and King Solomon, and lastly records the deeds of the kings of Judah after Solomon’s death. The book ends with Judah’s capture by the Babylonians and her subsequent exile, but the last couple paragraphs of 2 Chronicles skip ahead 70 years to the decree of Cyrus the Persian to allow the Jews to return to their homeland, and there the book ends. The most likely date for the book’s creation was some time after 400 BC, 150 years or so after the return from exile.

The author of the Chronicles used some non-biblical sources to compose his sweeping history, but it seems clear that he also had the following biblical books in front of him when he wrote Chronicles: the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations.

The purposes of the author are at least three-fold. First, the exilic community needed to be reminded of its national origins, going all the way back to the dawn of mankind. Second, the Israelites needed to be reminded of their national unity under the great kings David and Solomon. Third, the Israelites needed to be reminded of the primacy of the Torah, received by Moses, and along with the Torah, the importance of proper temple worship mediated by the Levite priests.

Chapters 28-29 of 1 Chronicles record three important events: 1) David’s instructions to Solomon to build the temple, 2) Solomon’s anointing as king, and 3) David’s death. Verses 1-11 in chapter 28 get us started.

David, an old man now, summons all of the leadership of Israel to hear his final commands. We are immediately reminded of both Moses and Joshua speaking before their deaths to the leaders of Israel. David first explains that he wanted to build the temple for God, but God would not allow him because David was a warrior and had shed blood. Instead of David, God chose Solomon to build His house. Of all of David’s sons, Solomon would be the next king and he would have the honor of building the temple.

David then charges the leaders of Israel to “follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.” He turns to Solomon and instructs him to “acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.” There are consequences for Solomon’s actions toward God. “If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”

God will bless Solomon and Israel if they obey his commands (especially building the temple), but He will curse them if they do not follow His commands. This has been the consistent message from God to the people of Israel ever since they left the slavery of Egypt, and it is still His consistent message to us today.

Note also that David warns Solomon, “The LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” God is omniscient, or all-knowing. Neither Solomon nor anyone else can hide what they are thinking from God, as he sees everything with perfect clarity.

In verse 11, David gives Solomon detailed plans on how to build the temple, plans that are described more fully in verses 12-19. David tells the assembled crowd that these plans were inspired by God, so that there is no doubt that they should be followed to the letter. The temple is to be a continuation of the tabernacle, and so we see many parallels between David’s plans and the plans given to Moses in the Book of Exodus.

In chapter 29, verses 1-9, David announces the treasure he has donated to the temple building campaign and implores the leaders of Israel to likewise donate, so that Solomon has everything he needs to finish the divinely appointed construction project. The leadership responded with an outpouring of generosity and all Israel rejoiced.

In verses 10-13, David spontaneously praises God with a beautiful prayer. In this prayer he refers to God’s timelessness, omnipotence, beauty and majesty, sovereignty, and generosity. David thanks God, essentially, for being God! David realizes that literally nothing good is given to him or Israel without it coming from God. Of special note is that verse 11 was appropriated by the early Christian church as a doxology appended to the Lord’s Prayer: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory.”

David’s prayer continues in verses 14-19. He acknowledges that everything donated to build the temple comes from God in the first place. David knows that God can see the sincerity that accompanied the donations of the people of Israel. Their motives were pure. David then asks that God “keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” Regarding Solomon, David asks God to “give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”

The next day David hosts a tremendous festival for the Lord, including sacrifices, eating and drinking, and the coronation of Solomon. It is likely that David and Solomon were co-regents for a time, until David eventually died. This was a common move by kings who wanted to ensure that their chosen successors were firmly established before the king’s death. Solomon’s rule begins with rich blessings from God and the full allegiance of the leaders of Israel.

Finally, in verses 26-30, the death of the greatest king of Israel, David, is reported. The writer informs us that David “ruled over Israel forty years—seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.”

J. A. Thompson, in 1, 2 Chronicles: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary) concludes:

The Chronicler presents not one but two great kings as the ideal for Israel. The one was David, the warrior-king, who subdued the enemies of the people of God and established a secure domain. He was now passing, and the other, Solomon, was taking his place. Solomon was a man of peace who would build up the prosperity of the nation. These two things together—victory over enemies and a reign of peace—are both essential. For Christian readers these two ideals are fulfilled in the one man, Jesus Christ. He conquers all his foes but at the same time establishes a reign of peace for his own people. In this the tandem of David and Solomon are a type of Christ.

Who Is Portrayed in the Earliest Existing Biblical Painting?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

The earliest existing painting portraying a biblical scene was found in a building called the House of the Physician in the ruins of the city of Pompeii, a city destroyed in AD 79 by Mount Vesuvius.  The painting is a striking rendition of the scene from 1 Kings 3 where two women lay claim to the same child and Solomon wisely determines who is the real mother of the child.

According to art expert Theodore Feder, this painting was likely commissioned by a non-Jew living in Pompeii in the time period just before the city was destroyed.  What makes this painting even more fascinating is that Feder thinks he has discovered the identities of two individuals who are in the bottom left of the painting and who are portrayed admiring the wisdom of Solomon.

In a recent article published in the Biblical Archaeology Review, Feder argues that the two individuals shown admiring Solomon are none other than Socrates and Aristotle, two of the most famous Greek philosophers of antiquity.

I believe these two figures are stand-ins for Socrates and Aristotle, introduced as a way of associating the wisdom of Solomon with that of the Greek philosophers. Put another way, their presence in the composition attests to the respect Greek philosophy could accord to Hebrew wisdom. Such a juxtaposition in art of wise men from the two civilizations was unprecedented, has rarely been done since, and is of great cultural and historical significance.

That Solomon was painted along with Socrates and Aristotle was a testament to the great respect that the Hebrew Bible was afforded as a book of wisdom in the 1st century Roman empire.  Feder concludes his article with this statement:

In selecting an episode from the Hebrew Bible, the patron departed from the canon of classical religious subject matter and elevated one from the Scriptures of a people whose influence at the time was spreading throughout the empire and would one day, in its Christian formulation, pervade it.

What Is the Basic Message of Ecclesiastes?

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most misunderstood books in the Hebrew Bible.  The author of the book, called Qohelet, who many believe is King Solomon, appears to contradict many of the teachings of the other books of the Bible.  Ecclesiastes is placed, in the Christian Old Testament, in the wisdom literature section, just after the book of Proverbs.  But Qohelet appears to dismiss the teachings of Proverbs and the overall pursuit of wisdom as meaningless!

How can this be, since many believe that Solomon also wrote the book of Proverbs?  Did he change his mind?

I don’t think so.  A careful reading of Ecclesiastes gives us some clues as to its basic message.  The first clue is a phrase that is repeated several times in the book: “That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.”  This phrase, or something close to it, is repeated five times in the book of Ecclesiastes.  In Hebrew literature, repetition is a sure clue that the author wants you to focus on this phrase.  It is like a signal flare saying, “Look at me!!”  The message seems to be that we should enjoy the pleasures God has given us in this life.

A second clue is the closing of the book in chapter 12.  Here is what it says: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”  I think this ending speaks for itself.

The rest of Ecclesiastes chronicles the attempts of Qohelet to find the meaning of life in various pursuits, all of which fail him.

When you put it all together, according to Dr. Tom Howe, Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages:

Although the tone of the book as a whole seems to be pessimistic, Qohelet is not a pessimist.  Rather, his goal is to demonstrate that life is meaningless, unless one lives it in the fear of God,  keeping His commandments and enjoying life as a gift from Him.  Ultimately, Qohelet is urging the reader not to trust in anything in this life to provide meaning and value.  Rather, one should trust only and always in God, and live life before Him.